The first week of fall camp 2019 is in the books for Notre Dame. The Irish spent five days at Culver Academy before returning to campus at the end of last week holding a pair of practices over the weekend. A lot has happened in those seven practices, so here is a quick recap of the biggest storylines so far.
First off, keep track of the Notre Dame players of the day from each practice with our running list. We’ll keep that page updated throughout fall camp as long as Brian Kelly is naming players of the day.
Kyle Hamilton Rising
Someone check-in on Greg. He’s been hyping Kyle Hamilton for more than a year now and all Hamilton’s done in his first week in camp is valid every single tweet and article Greg’s written. Hamilton has been one of the stars of camp from day one and has been seeing first-team reps at nickel. He’s still a freshman, so Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott’s jobs are safe, but it’s clear that it’s a matter of when not if Hamilton will be a star for Notre Dame.
In the practices open to the media, Hamilton has already notched five interceptions. No one else on the team is close to that right now. He’s also been a monster on special teams. In short, get used to seeing #14 on the field early and often this year.
The feeling Hamilton is giving to observers now is the same feeling Jaylon Smith gave six years ago. You’re pretty sure you’re witnessing something special. The difference here is Hamilton won’t have Brain Vangorder around to waste a potentially generational talent.
BUCK & MIKE is Still A Puzzle
The first week of camp has not brought any clarity to the BUCK or MIKE positions. If there were any questions at ROVER, however, those have been answered. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is #1, and Paul Moala is #2 there. JOK has also been very impressive early and has breakout candidate written all over him.
If only the picture were so clear at BUCK or MIKE. Notre Dame has rotated a bunch of players at both positions with Asmar Bilal starting camp as the top MIKE before giving way to Drew White the last few days. White, by the way, was named player of the day on defense on Saturday.
At BUCK, Jack Lamb was with the first unit early on before Bilal moved over as the top BUCK. Lamb and Shayne Simon have been getting worked in as well. Then there’s junior Jordan Genmark-Heath who hasn’t stood out good or bad yet.
True freshman JD Bertrand reported bulked up and has gotten some praise from Brian Kelly, but it doesn’t appear as though he is factoring into the depth chart mix just yet.
Expect more experiments and lineup arrangements over the next week.
Michael Young Makes Ridiculous Catch
The early favorite for the best play of camp goes to junior wide receiver Michael Young. Last week he made a crazy, sprawling one-handed catch after beating Troy Pride Jr.
Derrik Allen Transferring Out
Safety Derrik Allen was the first transfer of the summer. News broke at the end of last week that the former highly touted 4-star prospect was entering the transfer protocol. It’s almost shocking for Allen to be transferring out already considering the hype with which he came to Notre Dame. Some felt Allen should have been rated as a 5-star just last year. So far this summer Allen was the 5th safety at best on the roster.
Contrast Allen with Hamilton, who has come in and immediately forced himself into the mix for playing time. Allen struggled mightily last summer and got off to a slow start this spring before finally flashing in the Blue & Gold Game. That hope proved to be fleeting, however, with Allen falling behind both Hamilton and classmate DJ Brown in camp. Shaun Crawford taking snaps at safety did not speak well of Allen’s chances for playing time this year.
Notre Dame will be fine at safety this year without Allen, but his departure throws a big wrench into the depth there beyond this year.
Cole Kmet’s Injury Most Significant
Notre Dame has suffered a few injuries so far in camp, but Cole Kmet’s broken collarbone is by far the most significant in terms of impact on the 2019 season. The injury required surgery for Kmet, and Brian Kelly gave a timeline of 4-10 weeks for his return. That’s quite a bit longer than a typical broken collarbone so let’s hope he is just being overly cautious. Early reports stated that Kmet would be back in time for Notre Dame’s trip to Athens.
The other two injuries of significance outside of bumps and bruises were Jahmir Smith’s broken hand and Quinn Carroll’s torn ACL. Carroll obviously is out for the season though he was not expected to factor into the depth chart. Smith, meanwhile, has been able to continue practicing for the most part with his hand in a cast.
Reports of Phil Jurkovec’s Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
Sophomore quarterback Phil Jukovec’s Blue & Gold game did not do much to inspire hope that he could be a viable backup let alone live up to the hype of a quarterback many felt would be challenging for a starting job already. Then he had a rough first practice in front of the media. Notre Dame Twitter, as it’s known to do, did not exactly respond rationally.
Since that first practice, though, Jurkovec has been much better. He isn’t challenging Ian Book right now but has looked more and more comfortable each day and was even named offensive player of the day once already. Jurkovec still has a lot of work to do, but it is promising that he is getting better each day right now. Notre Dame needs a viable backup behind Book.
Lucky Seven: Notre Dame Named Captains
On Saturday, Brian Kelly named seven players captains for the 2019 season.
- QB Ian Book
- WR Chris Finke
- OT Robert Hainsey
- DE Julian Okwara
- DE Khalid Kareem
- S Jalen Elliott
- S Alohi Gilman
No surprises here. All were expected to be in the running, and Kelly and staff decided on giving them all the honor. Notre Dame uniquely announced this year’s captains with numerous recent Notre Dame captains filming messages of encouragement and congratulations to this year’s set of captains.
Donte Vaughn Looking Like a Starting CB
One of the surprises of the first week of camp is the re-emergence of senior corner Donte Vaughn. The last Notre Dame fans saw of Vaughn; he was getting beat by the speedy Clemson wide receivers while playing with a bum shoulder. After he missed the spring recovering from shoulder surgery, he’s returned and looked like his old self during the first week of camp.
The battle for the starting cornerback opposite Troy Pride is not over just yet, but Donte Vaughn had himself the kind of first week that could allow him to start to put some distance between him and the pack.